This is based on a nightmare I had last week. I was legitimately freaked out by this, and needed to be awake and active for an hour before I felt safe going back to sleep.
When I say I'm prone to vivid nightmares, I mean it.
He caught only a glimpse of the painting before averting his gaze with a sick feeling of horror. But no - she was still alive. She was looking at him expectantly, blue eyes bright with interest and hope.
"Well?" she asked, impossibly relaxed, impossibly cheerful. "What do you think?"
A globe, its colors simplified, buts shapes blobby and childish, cartoonish clouds drifting across its surface. And the whole overlaid with eyes. Hundreds of eyes. Wide, white, staring. Hastily, he jerked his thoughts away. He couldn't think of them. They would notice.
"I've never done anything like this before," she offered tentatively, unsettled by his tense silence. He shrugged off his jacket, still keeping his gaze carefully turned aside as he covered the canvas. Covered the eyes. Don't think about them.
"Sweetheart, you have to promise me never to do anything like that ever again."
"Because I'd never forgive myself if I lost you that way."
She looked at him with mingled concern and confusion, brows drawn together over guileless blue eyes. She sincerely had no idea what he meant. This was what he got for letting her live with her mother for so long.
"The..." Don't talk about them. Don't mention them. Don't think about them. "What you painted. It's dangerous. You might... attract attention." Hadn't her mother taught her anything? She was more than old enough to know - nearly sixteen now. She ought to have known. He focused ruthlessly on his ex-wife, refusing to let his thoughts wander. If they knew, if they noticed, if they saw...
"How is it dangerous? It's just a painting, Dad."
"No. It's not just a painting." He would be having words with that woman when they saw each other again. "Just promise me, okay? Promise you won't paint those things again."
He was frightening her. Good. She needed to be frightened. She needed to know this wasn't a game. This was serious.
"I promise." Her voice was small, her expression clouded. Good.
"Come on. Let's get something to eat. I'll take care of this later, alright? Then you can paint something new. A horse, maybe. Or our house."
"Not the eyes?"
Shock and fear zinged through him, and he felt it. The malevolent gaze of a being so incomprehensibly large his brain failed to register it properly. It was like being watched by the night sky. By the galaxy. By the universe. It was aware of him.
"No," he whispered. "Not... them. Don't talk about them. Don't think about them. Don't let them see." His face felt cold. His hands were cold. His feet were cold. The roar of his blood in his ears was almost deafening as everything in him screamed to run. To flee. But where could he go, when the sky itself had its attention on him?
"Because they're dangerous?" Her voice quivered. He could only just hear it. His hands were going numb, and his legs felt inexplicably weak.
"Yes," he whispered, and forced himself to think about... sandwiches. Bologna sandwiches. With dill pickles. And cheddar cheese.
"Your hands are cold."
He blinked. Dragged his gaze to her face. What had he been looking at before. His mind was filled with the image of a single blank, staring eye, all white and bottomless. But his daughter was here. She was looking at him, her face pale with fear, her eyes wide. Blue eyes. Innocent eyes.
He blinked again, and felt himself breathe in as if he'd been swimming hard for the surface. The world seemed to snap into focus. The colors came back. The sound came back. The rain and wind outside. The hum of the furnace. The garbled, staticky music from the radio in the kitchen.
"Sorry, sweetheart. I'll warm up in a minute. Let's get some lunch. How about bologna sandwiches?"